Muslim Organizations Plan Drive To Register One Million Voters, Launch ‘One America’ Outreach Initiative In Response To Anti-Muslim Bias
By Ismat Sarah Mangla, 12/21/15
A coalition of Muslim-American organizations announced three major initiatives on Monday in an effort to fight rising anti-Muslim bias, including a drive to register one million voters before the 2016 presidential election.
The U.S. Council on Muslim Organizations, an umbrella group that includes several Muslim-American advocacy and religious groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Islamic Circle of North America and several others, convened more than 100 local, regional and national Muslim leaders at a summit in Sterling, Virginia, on Sunday.
The summit was designed to address anti-Muslim backlash in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino, California attacks and to discuss ways to counter violent extremism. The group announced the programs that came out of the summit at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
The plan includes a nationwide effort among Muslim organizations and communities to register one million voters before November 2016, a “One America” outreach program to help Americans understand Muslims and Islam and the establishment of a National Open Mosque Day to increase interactions between American Muslims and their neighbors.
Oussama Jammal, the general secretary of the U.S. Council on Muslim Organizations, said the summit on Sunday was convened in response to the “unprecedented rise” of hate crimes against Muslim-Americans, but also to discuss the “real and present threat of violent extremist groups preying on our young people via the internet and twisting the meaning of the Quran to justify their atrocities.” Two new studies indicate that hate crimes against Muslim-Americans have tripled since the attacks in Paris.
Johari Abdul-Malik of the Muslim Alliance of North America, an organization for imams (Muslim religious leaders) said that that American mosques and imams had to do a better job of teaching young Muslims how to “avoid the seductive approaches that are found on the internet from groups like ISIS and others.”
The coalition also emphasized the importance of working with interfaith organizations and other minority groups that have faced persecution in the past.
“We are redoubling our efforts as a community, opening our mosques to our neighbors and friends, building closer relationship with civil rights organizations of African-Americans, Hispanics and others who have walked this path before, along with our Jewish brothers and sisters, who have experienced the kind of racist rhetoric we see coming out of the political environment today,” added Abdul-Malik.
Kristin Szremski, a spokeswoman for American Muslims for Palestine, said that American Muslims had to do a better job of outreach so that other Americans could get a better sense of the Muslim-American community.
“Mind you, we have been doing this kind of outreach and we have been condemning terrorism for years and years, but the problem is that people haven’t really been listening,” she said.
The voter registration drive would not be an effort to endorse any specific candidates, organizers said. Instead, it would focus on engaging Muslim-Americans in the civic process.
“We’ve learned one thing: That if you are demonized as a community, denied your rights, the best response is to take your soul to the polls. We are going to use the ballots to fight bigotry,” said Mahdi Bray, an imam representing the American Muslim Alliance.
Rabiah Ahmed of the Muslim Public Affairs Council said that the U.S. Council on Muslim Organizations’ initiative is unique because it will focus on uniting Muslim groups and organizations around the country in one message.
“We will not allow either ISIS or Islamophobia to define who we are or determine our destiny,” said Jammal. “We will define ourselves and we will chart our own destiny.”
Article Courtesy: International Business Times